Easter Hope

Jesus brought good news of God's love and forgiveness to a world in need. Yet the world could not take the Message nor the Man.

I mean He was speaking on behalf of God, correcting our misbeliefs, disturbing our pecking orders—not just calling "those people" sinners, but calling us all sinners. Then offering us God's forgiveness…

But who is He?! And the audacity to imply that we need forgiveness, or that we're doing anything wrong.

Soon after Jesus finished dining with His disciples they went to pray. But Judas led a large band of Roman soldiers to where they were. Those who hated Jesus most had been tracking Him down for a week, ever since He raised Lazarus from the dead. That's also when Jesus made one of His famous "I Am" statements:

"I Am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies…"

They thought they had Him dead to rites a few times earlier, but we're told "no man laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come."

Yet on Good Friday, His hour had come. When Judas brought sword wielding soldiers to arrest Him, Jesus gave Himself up to them. Yet not without a flash of glory…

John 18:4 So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, "Whom do you seek?" 5 They answered Him, "Jesus the Nazarene." He said to them, "I Am." … 6 So when He said to them, "I Am," they drew back and fell to the ground.

On the night of His arrest, Jesus let them know once again who they are acting against. "I Am." This is the translation of YHWH, the God of Abraham. The God who revealed His name to Moses, "I Am that I am."

After this, Jesus allowed them to take Him. And on the morning of Good Friday, Jesus' body was hammered onto a cross and the Lord of glory was ruthlessly crucified. The rest of Friday, Saturday, and early into Sunday the world had the peace it wanted, all was back to normal.

It is amazing what we grow comfortable with, and how we will fight and destroy to preserve it.

But several women began to disturb the peace with unsettling news. They visited His tomb, but the stone was rolled away, they said an angel told them,

Luke 24:5 "Why do you seek the living One among the dead? 6 He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, 7 saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again." 8 And they remembered His words, 9 and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.

The fact that women were the first to report that Jesus' tomb is empty gives further weight to the resurrection. In that day, a woman's testimony would not have been considered reliable, and if the disciples were trying to fabricate a resurrection narrative they wouldn't have made up a story that relied on their testimony. Nor probably angels… It would easy to punch a lot of holes in their testimony. But Luke just reported the facts as they happened.

We don't need to clean up the message so others can accept it. We don't need to make it more feasible to people today. Trust the Gospel itself. Let the truth be free to change lives. Change your attititude perhaps, but don't change anything about the message!

The fact is, Jesus' tomb was empty. The guards assigned to secure it had failed.

In fact, everything failed! Paying Judas 30 silver coins to betray Jesus was a waste (though he paid them back that evening and hung himself). Arresting Him. The religious trials, the state trials. The spikes that crushed through His wrists and feet. The sword that slit open His side. The huge stone that prevented entry to His tomb let alone escape couldn't keep Him in the grave.

How do you explain the empty tomb? Here are four ways people have tried to explain it.

1) One suggestion is that He didn't really die; and revived in the tomb. BUT the Romans knew death. His side was pierced to seal the deal. O and His sworn enemies would have made absolutely certain that He was dead.

2) His disciples so hoped that He'd be resurrected that they hallucinated He rose from the dead. NO—the crazy thing is NOBODY believed He would rise. Not even His followers. Plus 500 people saw Him risen at various times.

3) The disciples stole His dead corpse.

Matthew's Gospel tells Jesus' enemies tried to spread this very rumor that His disciples stole His body. But by doing so, they actually verify rather than deny that His tomb was empty. His body was gone.

But no, His tomb was sealed and guarded by Roman soldiers. Plus they didn't have the guts! They were in hiding; they denied even knowing Him. They wouldn't risk life and limb to steal His body then say he rose from the dead and then be tortured death while maintaining a lie.

4) The fourth and most logical explanation for the open minded is that Jesus literally rose from the dead, just as He had promised.

Jesus did not escape from the tomb He triumphed over it. He didn't escape death, He conquered.

Early in the Gospel of John, when Jesus first started to disturb the peace.

John 2:18 The Jews then said to Him, "What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?" 19 Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." 20 The Jews then said, "It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?" 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.

Blessed are you to believe without seeing the empty tomb or seeing Jesus risen and changed, without touching His hands and His feet. Blessed are you because you didn't make this up, Jesus rose from the dead in recorded history, and the Father Himself has granted you to believe.

The fact Jesus rose from the dead is huge!

First, Jesus' resurrection undid the tragedy of the crucifixion and gave it meaning. If He didn't rise from the dead, then why believe Jesus can do anything He'd promised. We'd be foolish to believe He is who He claimed to be. He's not YHWH. The Son of God. The Savior. The King. The One who forgives sins. If He didn't rise, all the beautiful things He said about God and God's love was made up. If Jesus didn't rise the dead, we're still dead in our sins, and separated from God.

But we celebrate Easter for a reason! Jesus did rise from the dead!

So the second thing about His resurrection is it affirms and verifies that Jesus is who He said He was, and all that He'd said is true and all that He promised shall be done.   

God loves you and sent His Son to give you eternal life with Him.

Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ.

No matter what, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.

He has a home for you in glory.

He's returning in power and glory and you will share in this, reign with Him in the kingdom to come.

All wickedness, injustice, suffering will be history.

Such is the assured hope of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Such is the power of God and the love of God. The same love of God which died on a cross and paid for our sins in His blood on Good Friday burst out of the darkness of death and into the radiant glory of Jesus' resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Second, Jesus' resurrection guarantees us All Is forgiven. All is well between you and the Holy One.

No, God doesn't compromise His holiness to accept you. He upgraded you. You are everything He says you are: loved, holy, and righteous.

Whenever we forget this we need to return to the cross (Jesus' sacrifice) and to the empty tomb (Jesus' victory) to define who God is and who we are. This is what Jesus had in mind when He says to eat the bread and drink the cup.

A third thing Jesus’ resurrection means is Jesus is Lord.

He had authority before but through the resurrection, Jesus conquered death, sin, governments, the devil, demons, the tyranny of the present, and taxes and the grave.

He now has an infinitely powerful, indestructible body. And even His most vicious haters shall bow before Him before the end.

Remember, Jesus didn't escape death and the grave, He soundly defeated it. Rendered it harmless. As believers, I don't say this lightly, but remembering Jesus' resurrection, we need not fear death.

Fourth, because Jesus rose from the dead, so shall you who believe. The moment you breathe your last breath, you will live forever. The second you shut your eyes for the last time, you will truly see for the first time. Your body will be powerful, indestructible, impervious to pain, sickness, death.

Jesus rose from the dead in a powerful, glorified body, fashioned for heaven and earth—in God's presence and man's. And so shall we who believe. These bodies will be perfect, powerful, glorious.

Nowhere in God's Word is there even a hint of floating around on clouds as pudgy faced babies with wings. If people saw us now as we will be, we'd either really frighten or truly impress them.

You may be sad today, exhausted, worn down, but Jesus' resurrection assures you'll have joy and strength, forevermore.

You may be marginalized today but you will be with Jesus Christ at the Marriage of the Lamb.

You may be blind today but you will see greater sights than any man has ever seen.

You may be poor today but you shall inherit the kingdom of God. And even now, as we await that day, the riches of God's grace have been lavished upon us.

The point is, Jesus' resurrection gives hope. We are not slaves to the present.

We don't have to pretend, "It's all good." It's not. The resurrection lets us stare reality in the face and admit that evil and suffering exist, but they have been defeated.

A wonderful and exhilerating and glorious kingdom is coming. Even better, Jesus is returning as King.

Matthew 24:30 "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory."